In February 2018, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was announced winner of the $5 million Mo Ibrahim award. The award, sponsored by Sudanese Telecommunication tycoon, Mo Ibrahim is given to past African leaders for their Achievement in Leadership.
Of course, some Liberian’s were taken aback, for them the former leader did not match the criteria set by the sponsor. But for others, the prize was not just about Mrs. Sirleaf. It was about the country-Liberia, a nation once known as a pariah state, now entrenching in democratic values, all boils down to her leadership.
No matter how we grade her individually based on our own political inclinations coupled with differences in ideologies and approaches to governance-the bottom line, we all have something to remember her for.
And so the Mo Ibrahim Foundation did recognize the positive gains she made during the 12 years of her administration and indeed, those good leaderships she displayed during those years paid off.
So on Saturday April 28, 2018, Mrs. Sirleaf was officially handed the honour at an event in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. In a statement ahead of the event, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said: “The weekend begins with a Leadership Ceremony, where this year we welcome and celebrate the 2017 Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
The Ibrahim Governance Weekend is the flagship event of the Mo Ibrahim and is held every year in a different African country. It includes a Governance Forum, a Concert and the Leadership Ceremony.
The award is designed to improve the quality of African political leadership. Mrs. Sirleaf is a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Africa’s first elected female head of state, who handed over leadership earlier this year to ex-international soccer star George Weah.
She becomes the fifth recipient of the award which is in its tenth year, since its inception in 2007. The prize has not been awarded in some years because there was no leader considered worthy of it.
In announcing Mrs. Sirleaf as the winner for the 2017 Mo Ibrahim prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation rained praises on Mrs. Sirlea for her: “exceptional and transformative leadership” in helping steer Liberia’s recovery from many years of civil war.
“During her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build,” the Foundation said.On hearing the outcome of the Prize Committee’s deliberations, Mo Ibrahim said: “I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim Laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond.”
The prize committee admitted that while Mrs. Sirleaf was accused of tolerating corruption, she had shown exceptional leadership in difficult circumstances. It added that Liberia was the only country out of 54 to improve in every category and sub-category of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
The Ibrahim Prize aims to distinguish leaders who, during their time in office, have developed their countries, strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, and advanced sustainable development.
Candidates for the award have to be democratically elected African heads of state or government who have left office during the previous three years at the end of their mandated terms.
The prize is $5 million paid out over ten years, with another $200,000 annually throughout the winner’s lifetime.Past winners of the prize include Mozambique’s former President Joaquim Chissano, Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae, Cape Verde’s former President Pedro Verona Pires and Namibia’s former President Hifikipunye Pohamba.
Receiving the Prize on stage over the weekend, Mrs. Sirleaf said she was going to continue with issues of women empowerment whiles advancing the cause of good governance across Africa.
“I will work with a small team of people to establish the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development, designed to support women as agents of change, makers of peace, and drivers of progress,” she said at the ceremony in Kigali. And this is why we have continued to remember Mrs. Sirleaf’s 12 years legacy, the good, the bad and the ugly.